Lawyers favor biotech trends

  • 15 February 2019

Source: The Manila Times
15 Feb 2019

AGRI-BIOTECH application in food and medicines is acceptable to the legal community, according to a study conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Development Communication (UPLB-CDC).

The study titled "Legal Discourse on Agri-Biotechnology: Implications to Lawyers' Engagement in Biotechnology in the Philippines" was commissioned by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture-Biotechnology Information Center (SEARCA-BIC) based in UPLB, Laguna.

The results of the study were presented to scientists and experts as well as representatives from the academe, national and international agencies and institutions, and partners from the biotech community during the recent Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) of SEARCA.

Professor Cleofe Torres of the UPLB-CDC Department of Science Communication, and lawyer Damcelle Cortes, assistant professor at the Institute for Governance and Rural Development of the UPLB College of Public Affairs and Development, shared some of the research findings in their ADSS lecture on "Engaging Lawyers in Agri-biotechnology: Challenges and Prospects."

Torres said results showed that despite having a low level of familiarity with key terms such as genes, viruses, Golden Rice, GMO (genetically modified organism) contamination; processes; and the existence of agri-biotech regulations in the country, lawyers still favor the application of agri-biotech in food and medicines provided proper precautions are taken.

"[These] precautions include educating the public on its pros and cons, addressing risks of the technology, and having a structured regulatory process," she said.

According to Torres, the study also revealed that while lawyers perceive agri-biotech as an interesting topic, they still do not see it as a lucrative area of legal practice.

"Nevertheless, lawyers were found to be open to expanding their knowledge on the subject, collaborating with scientists, and actively participating in regulating agri-biotech products in the country," she said.

Furthermore, Cortes said the study also analyzed the content of legal documents related to the Bt eggplant case.

"The study found that there is a need to improve the level of science literacy among the judiciary based on the legal arguments raised during the trial," Cortes said.

She also explained that such lack of understanding on the nature of GMO crops had implications on their decision to stop the Bt eggplant field testing in the Philippines in 2015, which was overturned the following year.